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Queensland Anzac Centenary 2014-2018 / Issue 1

Our first edition of Salute explores a number of major events and activities undertaken across Queensland in the first 18 months of the Anzac Centenary, from August 2014 to December 2015.

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Featured stories

Honoured to be serving their memory

No one could deny that Queenslanders are fiercely proud of their Anzacs. Up before the sun to pay their respects at the dawn service each Anzac Day and faithfully wearing poppies on Remembrance Day as a salute to the fallen and those left behind.

However, when it came to commemorating the four-year centenary of the First World War, the Queensland Government learned that many were unaware of its significance, and were even less sure of how to get involved.

The government wanted to find a fitting way to honour our servicemen and women. So together with a local Brisbane agency, Engine Group, a campaign was developed to raise awareness of the Anzac Centenary and improve people’s appreciation of the role Queensland played in the First World War.

Under a common theme of ‘How will we serve their memory?’ this campaign featured current Australian Defence Force personnel reading century-old letters and telegrams from the war front written by Queenslanders who served in the First World War. These letters helped Queenslanders understand and empathise with those who served and encouraged people of all ages to take action and find how they could become involved during the Anzac Centenary.

The Queensland Government wishes to express its sincere gratitude and appreciation to the Australian Defence Force for their support and participation in the campaign. Thanks must also go to the John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland and Queensland State Archives for their insight, research and expertise. Without this collaboration, the campaign would not have been possible.

Visit to watch videos and read the original letters featured in this campaign.

Leading Seaman Christie Piper, Royal Australian Navy, Bulimba Barracks (Brisbane), who read an excerpt from Queenie (Edith Florence) Avenell’s letter.

Major Scott Calvert, Australian Army, Lavarack Barracks (Townsville), who read an excerpt from George Herbert Bourne’s letter.

Flight Lieutenant Scott Hamill, Royal Australian Air Force, RAAF Base Amberley, who read an excerpt from Maurice Delpratt’s letter.

The eternal life: Anzac Square memorial

Shrine of Remembrance, Anzac Square, Brisbane.

The Anzac Square War Memorial and Parkland is one of Queensland’s most significant sites dedicated to the memory of our servicemen and women in all wars, and hosts various commemorative ceremonies. The centrally located square is a Brisbane icon and a peaceful sanctuary for reflection within the capital’s busy business district.

Today, enhancements to the undercroft areas are bringing the past into the present to create a lasting heritage for all Queenslanders and future generations. The area contains the First World War gallery, the Second World War gallery, and the Post-World War II and exhibition gallery (formerly the RSL headquarters).

Opened on Armistice Day in 1930 the state memorial contains the Shrine of Remembrance and the Eternal Flame held in a bronze urn.

It was always a place for the people, with its original construction paid for by donations from ordinary Queenslanders who were themselves facing difficult times in the years between the First World War and the Great Depression.

Sadly, over the years, the treasured memorial had suffered structural erosion from water damage. While this type of damage is not uncommon for buildings of this era, if not addressed, the damage could have threatened the future of this unique and much-loved state memorial.

Early works began in 2014 and have been timed to coincide with the Anzac Centenary. While no longer visible to the eye, repairs to the water-damaged sub-structure that supports the memorial, along with waterproofing of the interior, has added at least another 75 years to the lifespan of this significant memorial.

Careful management of the Eternal Flame was a key consideration during initial works, with the flame being relocated within the parklands to ensure it lived up to its name. The stage two restoration included the return of the Eternal Flame back to its original location with an improved gas system.

Further construction and refurbishments have also been undertaken to the pedestrian tunnel linking Anzac Square to Central Station, and enhancements made to the Shrine of Remembrance. These works have also involved repairs to stonework and ironwork, installation of drains, new tiles in the Shrine, stair treads, column protection and new pavers throughout the square.

The restoration elements, due for completion in 2016, involve refurbishment and enhancement of heritage spaces beneath the Shrine. It is intended the space will include a display of historical artefacts from post Second World War, and an exhibition gallery dedicated to Queensland’s military history. Enhancements will also include the curation of plaques and the unveiling of a previously concealed heritage sandstone wall uncovered during the structural investigations.

Completion of these essential works has been made possible by the Queensland Government’s $11.4 million contribution, and the Brisbane City Council’s $2.2 million contribution.

Future works will also benefit from a substantial contribution from the federal government’s Anzac Centenary Public Fund.

Bringing the journey to Gallipoli to life

It became an unforgettable moment in history when the Queensland contingent of the First Australian Imperial Force (1st AIF) departed on 24 September 1914 to serve the mother country. More than 1500 men from two of Queensland’s most iconic military units, the 9th Infantry Battalion and the 2nd Light Horse Regiment, travelled from various locations, including the Enoggera Barracks, to arrive at Pinkenba Wharf.

Transporting the troops in 1914 was a major logistical exercise, taking several days and involving trucks, trains and extensive cooperation between state and commonwealth departments. The 2nd Light Horse Regiment rode their horses from Enoggera Barracks to Queen Street, Brisbane and on to Pinkenba Wharf where they were cheered by huge crowds and officially farewelled.

Just over a century later, the Queensland community came together to witness a spectacular re-enactment of this event. Nearly 100 horses and riders of the Australian Light Horse Association travelled from across the state and gathered at Victoria Park in Brisbane, where they set up camp and underwent extensive rehearsals for the big event. The riders, some of them descendants of the original soldiers, wore replica First World War uniforms, including the now famous emu plume in their slouch hats—a tradition started in Queensland. They impressed crowds as they rode through the streets of Brisbane and across the Story Bridge.

Complementing the day was an exhibition and educational display at South Bank that provided a glimpse of the daily lives of soldiers during the First World War. Included were re-enactments of training exercises as they would have been done at Enoggera Barracks a century ago.

These events, made possible by the Queensland Government and dedicated volunteers, were among the largest First World War commemorative events held in Queensland, and formed an official part of the 2014 Brisbane Festival’s Riverfire celebrations.

As the fireworks exploded later that evening, the spirit of the Anzacs could be felt as the local community paid tribute to our young soldiers, reliving a moment in time that left a lasting impression on so many.

The 1st AIF, Australian Light Horse Association commemorative ride, 27 September 2014.

Australian Light Horse Association members in replica First World War uniforms.

Captain Andrew Craig RAN (Retired) and Mr Lawrence Watts, Director, Australian Light Horse Association inspect the troops.

Australian Light Horse Association pausing en route during a Royal Australian Air Force low-level flypast.

The 1st AIF commemorative ride through Brisbane city.

Communities across Queensland rally to the spirit of the March of the Dungarees

Call To Arms, Laidley, 29 November 2015.

Call to Arms parade, volunteers in replica First World War uniforms, 2015.

Dennis Misso and Ann Window dressed in period costume for the Laidley Call to Arms, 2015.

Ms Norma O’Hara Murphy and Mr Bob Townshend participating in the Demonstration of Support commemorations in Warwick, 11 December 2015.

139 Army Cadet Unit, March of the Dungarees re-enactment, 2015.

One hundred years ago, recruiting committees were formed in country towns across the nation. Queensland’s own recruiting committee was witnessing a ‘show of support’ and so began a march from Warwick to Brisbane.

Denim dungarees were the uniform provided by the State Recruiting Committee to those who joined the march in 1915. By day two, the Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Binnie had nicknamed the group ‘The Dungarees’, a term quickly adopted by the young men of the march that endures to this day.

Three outstanding events, funded by the Queensland Government’s Anzac Centenary program in late 2015, brought the past to life through a series of re-enactments in South East Queensland.

Laidley steps back in time with re-enactment

The energy and spirit the Laidley township displayed 100 years ago was on display to young and old at the Call to Arms community event on 29 November 2015.

The people of Laidley were encouraged to respond to an article that appeared in the Laidley Plainland Leader calling for locals to volunteer and assist event organiser, The Laidley District Historical Society, with the re-enactment of the famous Laidley Call to Arms of 100 years ago.

The community responded to the call with enthusiasm that echoed the actions of the original 14 brave young First World War volunteers who answered the call of duty all those years ago.

Thanks to activities like the march through Laidley, displays by the 2nd Lockyer Light Horse, lovingly restored pre-1918 Model T Ford cars, swags and damper and a working bullock team on display at Laidley Pioneer Village, history was brought to life. The commemorative Call to Arms left no doubt that the Anzac spirit lives on in Laidley.

Community spirit captured 100 years on

At 5pm on 11 December 2015, the Warwick Town Hall rang to the sound of marching bands and the rhythm of boots of marching cadets as the town recreated the Demonstration of Support. The atmosphere stirred the memories and the blood of Golden Guitar winner, Norma O’Hara Murphy, who wrote a new song as tribute to the Dungarees titled, The Dungaree March.

The song was performed for the public in a program of music and poetry presented in Warwick Town Hall after the march. Ms O’Hara Murphy said she was inspired to write the song because she grew up with stories of the Light Horse. Her uncles served the country and she was moved to honour a neighbour who was a veteran.

Public support and enthusiasm for the re-enactment of the famous March of the Dungarees began to gain momentum and it became a frequent news item on local, state and even national news.

In fact, the dedication and commitment of Southern Downs Regional Council was recognised when the council was awarded the 2016 Community Event of the Year Award at the Australia Day Awards.

An epic journey for 140 young cadets

On the morning of 12 December 2015, 100 years after the iconic March of the Dungarees, a squadron of young Australian Defence Force cadets answered the call once more as they readied themselves for a long march ahead.

One of the most significant events in the commemoration program came to a spectacular conclusion just over a week later on 19 December as 140 cadets completed a 239-kilometre journey from Warwick to Brisbane.

Following in the century-old footsteps of the original ‘Dungarees’, the cadets aged 13–19 carried walking sticks engraved with the names of the original recruits. Their journey ended in Anzac Square where they presented a plaque commemorating the original 1915 march to The Honourable Grace Grace, representing the Premier of Queensland.

The march started in Warwick and was enthusiastically received by townspeople, local council, dignitaries and media, as the cadets passed through Allora, Clifton, Greenmount, Cambooya, Toowoomba, Helidon, Gatton, Laidley, Rosewood and Ipswich. Thanks to the tireless efforts of event organiser 139 Army Cadet Unit, the march began with just 28 Army and Air Force cadets, adding more in each town and finishing 125 strong to mirror the march of 1915.

Cobb & Co travel to bring the warhorse and soldier together again

Animals have always been a pivotal part of war. From dogs to carrier pigeons, servicemen and women have relied on the loyalty and smarts of animals to save lives and provide much needed companionship.

During the First World War, animals featured heavily, including more than 100,000 Australian horses.

The army horse became synonymous with trust, sacrifice and mateship. A trooper and his horse travelled as one, cantering through treacherous conditions and always on alert.

So important was the relationship between a horse and his soldier that in 2015, an exhibition at the Cobb & Co Museum in Toowoomba was curated and launched, titled Horse in War. Showing from 18 March to 6 December 2015, the exhibition provided a fascinating insight into wartime action, and the relationship between animals and humans.

Through photographs, diaries and original artefacts, Horse in War told stories of the thousands of skilled horsemen from Queensland and across Australia who worked, and risked death, alongside the horses of the Australian Army during the First World War.

Among the stories are those of the hardworking harness horses that moved wagons of food, munitions and equipment, and the horse-drawn ambulances that transported the sick and wounded.

The exhibition also featured a number of prominent Queensland soldiers including the well-known General Sir Harry Chauvel and Brigadier William Grant, through to ordinary Queensland troopers. Among them was amateur photographer, Esmond Lecchi, who served throughout the big Light Horse offensives of 1917–1918.

During Lecchi’s time in Palestine, Syria, Jordan and Egypt, he photographed the day-to-day events of life with the Light Horse, providing a rare insight into young Australian soldiers and the bond with their horses.

Also featured in the exhibition were elements of Australian war history from the Middle East and the Western Front, including the show centrepiece—an original and rare Army General Service (GS) wagon that had been sensitively preserved by Cobb & Co Museum staff and volunteers. The GS wagon is one of only a handful remaining from the many thousands that were used in the First World War.

Queensland Museum Network Director of Operations Deborah Bailey described the exhibition as encompassing the bravery, mateship and humour of the Queensland soldier and his horse in a portrait tinged with both colour and sadness.

“It was a collaborative effort that brought together families with a First World War Light Horse connection and local veteran groups,” Ms Bailey said.

“For the first time, many of these families had an opportunity to meet and share their stories.”

The relationship between humans and horses remains as strong as ever, and while the advent of technology has meant that horses are no longer as critical in the battlefield, they are still involved in our armed forces and their legacy lives on.

Remembering the warhorse

More than 100,000 horses were shipped from Australia overseas during the First World War. Only one returned. Brave and loyal, a horse was often more than a mate—it meant shelter, mobility and often a bed as soldiers had to sleep on the go. War was not kind to horses either. Many of these highly trained animals died from artillery wounds, disease and exhaustion in unfamiliar and harsh conditions.

Resident Cobb & Co Museum blacksmith, Terry Drennan, making rave brackets for the GS wagon.

Battlefield angels

Australian Army Nurses outside the Army Nurses Club, Brisbane 1917.

When Australia went to war, medics followed. However, the death toll wasn’t confined to soldiers serving on the frontline. Our Australian doctors, nurses, ancillary staff and stretcher bearers also put their lives on the line to treat thousands of allied troops.

A century later the proud story of our medical heroes’ dedication is told in a documentary produced by Queensland Health. As part of the Queensland Anzac Centenary, Bandages and Battlefields pays tribute to the doctors, nurses and support staff who gave up their lives to serve in the Australian Army Nursing Service (AANS).

The documentary explores the unsung work performed by our medical teams along with the significant medical advancement in treatments for infections, burns and wounds.

The 42-minute documentary involving 12 months of research, location filming and interviews, reveals the work, memories and legacy of local medicos, including 1300 doctors and about 2500 nurses, who worked in terrible conditions in the medical service during the First World War.

The production team were fortunate to have the assistance of Metro North Hospital and Health Service board member Dr Cliff Pollard AM whose interest in medical history proved invaluable for both research and contacts who shared their stories on camera.

Together with archival footage, the production team captured moving moments beginning with the 2014 Anzac Day commemorations, including the 2014 Nurse’s Vigil, the Anzac Square dawn service and the Anzac Day service at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital.

Along the way the team also learned more about the department’s strong history of past and current service with medical personnel serving as reservists, including staff whose grandparents had served in a military capacity in the First World War. Another interesting find was learning that the famous scene of the Gallipoli landing was not in fact real footage from Gallipoli, but was actually a re-enactment for the film titled The Hero of the Dardanelles filmed at Tamarama Bay in 1915.

Among the stories told in the documentary is that of the war nurse. Initially doubted as being able to save lives, the nurse’s role was seen as one of an assistant. War was to change that. Previously unseen, nurses had to be quick thinking and learned to improvise. They also took on new roles including anaesthetics under extreme conditions.

Fulfilling their traditional roles as caregivers, nurses worked behind the lines in field hospitals and on medical ships that anchored offshore near battlefields that were inaccessible by land. They treated, nursed and comforted 137,000 wounded Australian soldiers during the years of fighting and countless others from allied nations. Another 200,000 Australians received care for illness and disease.

The Australian Imperial Force casualty rate was 65 per cent, among the highest rates in the British and Commonwealth forces.

With up to 250 patients at a time and just one orderly to help, the nurses showed they were more than capable, and Australians soon recognised their dedication. Many a soldier would see the red cape as a comfort knowing he was being looked after by one of their own.

The stretcher bearers were the first to reach the dying and wounded. Collecting and moving casualties was dangerous and exhausting work and often had to be done after dark. Many were themselves casualties of indiscriminate bullets.

There were no bathing facilities, and unburied corpses in and around the frontline areas were a breeding ground for flies. Disease swept through the Anzac forces at Gallipoli. Dysentery, which became known as the ‘Gallipoli Gallop’, tetanus and septic wounds plagued the soldiers. Thousands had to be evacuated from the battlefield as the only anaesthetic treatments available were chloroform and ether.

Twenty-five nurses died in the war and nearly 400 were officially honoured. One of the heroes of the documentary is Brisbane-born Gallipoli nurse Grace Wilson, a decorated nurse and a recipient of the prestigious Florence Nightingale Medal.

Matron Wilson and her nurses famously tore up their petticoats to make bandages for the men.

Her caring nature became legend among the Anzac troops with many men calling her ‘Aunty Grace’. She served in France, was appointed Matron-in-Chief in 1925 and later went on to serve in the Second World War. In 1953 Matron Wilson became the first woman to be made a life member of the Returned Service League (RSL).

Undoubtedly what these workers faced was completely unexpected to what they eagerly signed up for, as documented by one medic in 1914:

‘We could not get any wounded off the beach until night, as all boats and tows were needed to bring in supplies and troops. We began to evacuate them at 5pm and got about 600 off by 8pm. They lay, during the day, all along the beach, for several hundred yards, in what shelter we could devise, much of it inadequate, of course. They were all given surgical care and some food, tea, Bovril, biscuits, etc. Many were hit by shrapnel while lying there, and had to be re-dressed.’

Excerpt from Corbin John in Experiences with the AAMC at Gallipoli. Medical Journal of Australia, JA 1916; 1, (6): 111-114.

Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia (CC BY-ND 3.0)
Last updated
3 June, 2019

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